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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 14:51 GMT
Nigeria's journalist on the run
Policeman disperse rioters in Kaduna, Nigeria
More than 200 people were killed in religious riots
Two weeks ago, Isioma Daniel would have had no idea that writing an article about the Miss World beauty contest would lead to religious riots, more than 200 deaths and calls for her to be killed.


She was one of the best writers we ever had

Tunji Bello
ThisDay
Ms Daniel, who studied journalism and politics at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, only graduated in June last year before returning to Nigeria and working at the ThisDay newspaper.

In last week's article, the new journalism graduate, a Christian in her mid-20s, said of the beauty contest that the Prophet Mohammed would not have complained about the pageant and indeed, may have chosen to marry one of the beauty queens.

"The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria to ask them to revel in vanity," she wrote.

"What would Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from one of them."

'Utterly provocative'

In the fury which erupted, more than 200 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians, the newspaper's Kaduna offices were burned down, and thousands were left homeless and destitute.

A "fatwa" urging Nigerian Muslims to kill her for writing the article has been issued by authorities in the northern Zamfara state.

Burnt down offices of ThisDay newspaper in Kaduna
ThisDay's Kaduna offices were burnt down

One Muslim cleric said that the only way she could save her life would be to convert to Islam.

Other Islamic scholars, however, say that her apology and resignation mean the fatwa is inappropriate.

The paper apologised on Ms Daniel's behalf, saying that an editor had attempted to edit out the passage but was thwarted by technology.

ThisDay printed an "apology to all Muslims" in which it said Ms Daniel's comment was "utterly provocative".

The chairman of ThisDay's editorial board, Tunji Bello, a Muslim, told the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper that he found the passage offensive but did not hold it against her.

"She was one of the best writers we ever had," he said.

"She was a very promising reporter."

Mr Bello added that following the violence he had attempted to persuade Ms Daniel not to resign from her position, however he said he thought her parents had urged her to leave the country.

'Young girl'

She is thought to have fled the country for the comparative safety of the United States.

Back in England, where the Miss World ceremony was hurriedly rescheduled, pageant organiser Julia Morley took pity on Ms Daniel.

"This is a young girl, one can't help feeling sorry that she wrote what she did," she told news channel Sky News.

"But we cannot be responsible for somebody's opinion."

Several critics have said that the writer should have known of the bitter religious conflicts which have beleaguered the country.

And, perhaps tellingly, the website for ThisDay newspaper seems to have removed profiles of all its journalists - including Ms Daniel - from the pages.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Miss World row
What next for Nigeria?
 VOTE RESULTS
Was the press to blame for Miss World fiasco?

Yes
 49.23% 

No
 50.77% 

130 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


Miss World row

Analysis

Features

BACKGROUND
See also:

27 Nov 02 | Africa
25 Nov 02 | Africa
23 Nov 02 | Africa
24 Nov 02 | Media reports
22 Nov 02 | Africa
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